Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Accidental Staycation

Somehow, without even trying or even necessarily wanting to, the Floor Pie family appears to have mastered the “staycation.”

I’m as surprised as you are.

When the snow started falling on Monday morning I was just the littlest bit irritated, even as Impy and Chimpy joyfully scrambled into their puffy coats. For all my do-whatcha-feel quirkiness I’m actually a rather linear thinker, easily ruffled when plans go awry. We had a Thanksgiving trip to Oregon to prepare for, co-op preschool classes to attend, plates to spin.

But snow in Seattle is a rare occurrence indeed. Between our city’s apparent lack of snow plows and a landscape of crazy-steep hills and floating bridges, we tend to shut down pretty easily. As it turned out, the only thing that wasn’t cancelled that first snow day was my parent-teacher conference at The Boy’s elementary school. Afterwards, with Mr. Black home with both kids, I walked down to my favorite coffee house in that neighborhood and just sat, warming my hands on a pumpkin spice white mocha and watching the snowflakes swirling around.

It didn’t matter that I was only a few blocks from my kid’s school and a short drive from home. It didn’t matter that dozens of loose ends and unanswered questions lay in my mental inbox. For the moment I was deliciously alone, anonymous, with all the time in the world.

You’d think that feeling would disappear the minute I had to haul myself home in the now-heavier snow. But it didn’t! I walked in the door to find Mr. Black on the computer and the kids immersed in some game in the playroom. After a minute or two, I actually picked up the library book I’d been saving for our trip and curled up by the window to read. (To read! A grown-up book! During the day!)

We passed the hours with all the whimsical luxury of a family renting a quaint cottage in some vacation town, easily changing companions every few hours for a new set of amusements. The Boy and I walked up to the hardware store to buy birdseed. Little Girl and I read stories while The Boy catapulted shovels full of snow in the backyard. The Boy and Mr. Black played Civilization. Mr. Black and Little Girl played Bird Bingo. The four of us walked up to Kidd Valley for lunch. The only thing missing was an exotic landscape…although an all-day snowfall that doesn’t melt the next day is exotic enough in these parts.

Snow day after snow day, I expected the cabin fever to set it. We did have some isolated flare-ups – not unlike the sort you have when traveling with your family. But for the most part, that luxurious vacationy mood remained. Even now, the night before Thanksgiving, there’s still a delicious sense of laziness in the air.

When we’re trying to pack the car tomorrow I might be cursing the loss of my usual pre-Oregon-trip bustling. But I’m hoping that, instead, all this blissed-out laziness has somehow brought me closer to some True Meaning of Thanksgiving sentiment (I’m thankful for family!). Or at least some anti-holiday-stress sentiment (I’m thankful for having avoided the mall this week!).

Whether the feeling lasts or not, it’s just really, really nice to feel this relaxed when we’re this close to the holiday of 1-5 traffic and pie fails. It’s such a rare time of year for living in the present. More than anything, I’m grateful for that.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You Are My Rain


It’s so easy to lose the thread these days. And then when I find it, it’s not really him at all anymore; not the him I’ve come to know. I used to doubt so much, and yearn. I used to not know how to ask for things. I used to worry and miss him. I used to curl into him, filling every space, renewed.

Did we really love the rain as much as I remember, or was that some affectation of the recently-moved-to-Seattle? Because that’s what everyone warns about before you move to Seattle, isn’t it? So we told them all the rain’s no big deal, and then we kind of had to commit to that. No car in those days, so we’d wait at rain-swept bus stops and street corners. I used to imagine a wedding announcement featuring us in our soggy jeans at the corner of Pine and Boren, waiting for the light to change.

So many different snapshots of our early love are rain-drenched, even before Seattle was on the horizon. The night we met, I walked to that party from one end of my Philadelphia neighborhood to the other in an eerily foreshadowing misty warm January rain. And when I knew he was moving, I’d study the rainy days and try to imagine myself in his new city. It seemed so distant and unlikely, but the next thing I knew it was real. Damp grocery bags in our hands. Drizzle-speckled used CDs from Cellophane Square.

The music we fell in love to was rain itself. Hooverphonic. Air. Massive Attack. Stereolab. Love Spirals Downwards. All those dreamy, fuzzy layers; dozens of neutral shades blurring sensually into each other. All these years later and I still catch my breath when one of those songs comes on, and an ordinary drive to the store is suddenly transformed. I notice the skyline again, and remember what it felt like when this was the landscape of a romantic adventure; not the landscape of errands and commutes.

Yes, by now the novelty of all this rain has worn off a bit. Complaining about the rain in Seattle is about as useless as complaining about the heat in Texas. But that doesn’t stop us. Sometimes it’s downright worrisome, the way it pours down on our little old house. Sometimes we’ll have days and days – weeks, even – of relentless downpour, and I’ll think this just can’t be good for us. But there are moments when the rain unexpectedly locks me into the old optimism.

Like last week, when I had to run some paperwork into The Boy’s school. The last thing I wanted to do was leave my cozy little car-cocoon. But the minute I set foot on the sidewalk and felt those soft raindrops in the warm breeze, it was like stepping back in time. The colors – vibrant reds and yellows of the autumn leaves popping against their black branches and the milky grey sky. Suddenly, I wasn’t in as much of a hurry. I was feeling that same wet, fresh, ripped-open sensation of when I first arrived here and everything felt so new – rain-drenched, uncertain, discouraging at times, but unmistakably hopeful.

It isn’t just nostalgia that links my love to the rain. Rain is struggle. Rain is sacrificing convenience and comfort for the sake of just getting outside anyway and going where you need to go. Rain drives you crazy, making you adapt to its quirks. Rain is familiar. Rain drives you back inside. It gives you permission to go slowly and take care of yourself. (Have some tea.)

Rain is imperfection itself, in all its disappointment and unexpected beauty.

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